In this day and age, everybody recognizes this familiar little symbol.
As basic e-mail etiquette, if you send an attachment, be sure to reference it in the body of the e-mail. Briefly explain what the attachment is. According to the book Technical Communication in the Twenty-First Century, you should cite, “… specific reference to the attachment in the body of your e-mail, describing its content, its format (I.E. the program used to create it), and sometimes its size.” The reason for this is two-fold. For one, it alerts the recipient that there is an attachment to be opened, and two it can assuage any fear of opening the attachment in case of a virus.
Attachments are an important part of e-mail messaging for various reasons. Attachments are used to preserve formatting. For example, in accounting, I use attachments to send my financial statements, prepared in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, because if I just pasted the information into the e-mail body, the formatting would explode and I would just have a jumble of numbers and symbols that were meaningless. The same thing may occur with visuals. Pictures and other visuals, if inserted into the body of the e-mail normally, would break up the text and make the e-mail both lengthy and hard to read.
Size is also a factor in e-mail attachment etiquette. I always compress my attachments because sending large attachments is something of a faux pas in the business community. Large attachments tend to take up lots of space in inboxes, which may have a set MB space limit and transmitting large files uncompressed can really slow down networks. Many companies have rules regarding sending attachments including that all attachment should be compressed or under a certain size so as to not use up unnecessary amounts of bandwidth.
Finally, consider the format of the attachment itself. As I previously mentioned, when I create excel spreadsheets and attach them to e-mails for accounting documents, I do so confident in the knowledge that my teacher (and my later employers) will have excel and be able to view my work. As mentioned in the introductory paragraph, make sure to make reference to the program and format used in the creation of the attachment, or if any special program is needed to uncompress it, if it is compressed. In my collegiate career, I have had numerous issues with not telling a professor the format of an assignment and having some confusion with grades. This is especially true with the recent switch from Word 97-03 to the new format of Word 07. I have taken to just making sure I correctly mention what format each attachment is in, so that my recipients do not have to struggle to open the attachment.
P.S. E-mail attachments can save on travel costs!
Technical Communication in the Twenty-First Century. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2002. Print.
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